Real concern? Or more bargaining rhetoric? NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter told the New York Times on Monday that he is 99% sure there will be a lockout next summer.
“I’d be 99 percent sure as of today that there will be a lockout,” Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said in an interview at his Harlem office. “I’ve said, ‘Save your money because in all probability there’s going to be a lockout.’ ”
By all accounts, neither side has been willing to compromise thus far, and there has been little progress since negotiations began. The owners claim to be losing substantial amounts of money, and Commissioner David Stern says the league wants to reduce player salaries significantly in the next deal. The players meanwhile, have scoffed at the idea of giving back money, and asked for proof of the league’s dire financial status.
Currently, 57% of revenues are designated for player salaries. The league claims the present deal is too much in favor of the players, while the union points to their significant concessions in the 1998 negotiations. At the time, this CBA was considered a major win for the owners. Now it appears they want more.
Both sides are hoping to make progress on a deal before the All Star break in February, but Hunter says the owners have yet to show that they are serious about working it out.
“I’m waiting to get some sign, some movement from owners, that they want to reach a reasonable deal,” Hunter said. “Right now they’re being unreasonable. And I can’t tell you when reason is going to set in.”
While a lockout doesn’t necessarily mean games missed, it would likely delay offseason processes such as free agency. But in 1998-99, the process did lead to a shortened season. Teams played a 50 game schedule, after a deal was finally reached in January of 1999. It was a six month lockout that cost both sides millions.
The NBA lost significant public favor during the 1998 work stoppage, and both sides would be foolish to let it happen again. It took years for the league to regain the casual fan, and many have never returned. Yet the NBA is again prospering in terms of attendance and ratings. At a time when popularity of the sport has reached new heights, they can’t afford to take another step back.